Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross
Edith Stein.jpg
Born October 12, 1891(1891-10-12), Breslau, German Empire
Died August 9, 1942 (aged 50), Auschwitz concentration camp, Nazi-occupied Poland
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified May 1, 1987, Cologne, Germany by Pope John Paul II
Canonized October 11, 1998 by Pope John Paul II
Feast August 9
Attributes Yellow Star of David, flames, a book
Patronage Europe; loss of parents; martyrs; World Youth Day[1]

Saint Edith Stein (October 12, 1891 – August 9, 1942) was a German-Jewish philosopher, nun, martyr, and saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Born into an observant Jewish family but an atheist by her teenage years, she converted to Christianity in 1922, was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church and was received into the Discalced Carmelite Order as a postulant in 1934. Although she moved from Germany to the Netherlands to avoid Nazi persecution, in 1942 she was arrested and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she died in the gas chamber.

Edith Stein was canonized as Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross (her monastic name) by Pope John Paul II in 1998; however, she is often referred to as "Saint Edith Stein".


Stein was born in Breslau (Wrocław), in the German Empire's Prussian Province of Silesia, into an observant Jewish family. Born on October 12, 1891, Edith was a very gifted child who enjoyed learning. She greatly admired her mother's strong faith; however, by her teenage years Stein had become an atheist.

In 1916, she received a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Göttingen, with a dissertation under Edmund Husserl, "Zum Problem der Einfühlung" (On The Problem of Empathy). She then became a member of the faculty in Freiburg. In the previous year she had worked with Martin Heidegger in editing Husserl's papers for publication, Heidegger being appointed similarly as a teaching assistant to Husserl at Freiburg in October 1916. But she was rejected as a woman with further habilitational studies at the University of Freiburg [2]and failed to successfully reach in a habilitational study "Psychische Kausalität" (Psychic Causality) at the University of Göttingen in 1919.


Relief of Edith Stein

While Stein had earlier contacts with Catholicism, it was her reading of the autobiography of the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila on a holiday in Göttingen in 1921 that caused her conversion. Baptized on January 1, 1922, she gave up her assistantship with Husserl to teach at a Dominican girls' school in Speyer from 1922 to 1932. While there, she translated Thomas Aquinas' De Veritate (On Truth) into German and familiarized herself with Catholic philosophy in general and abandoned the phenomenology of her former teacher Husserl for Thomism. She visited Husserl and Heidegger at Freiburg in April 1929, in the same month that Heidegger gave a speech to Husserl (like Stein, a Jewish convert to Christianity) on his 70th birthday. In 1932 she became a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Münster, but anti-Semitic legislation passed by the Nazi government forced her to resign the post in 1933: the same year in which her former colleague Martin Heidegger became Rector at Freiburg and stated that "The Führer, and he alone, is the present and future law of Germany." In a letter to Pope Pius XI, she denounced the Nazi regime and asked the Pope to openly denounce the regime "to put a stop to this abuse of Christ's name." [3]

Stein's letter received no answer, and it is not known for sure whether Pius XI. even read it.[4] However, in 1937, Pope Pius XI issued an Encyclical written in German, Mit brennender Sorge, in which he criticized Nazism, listed breaches of an agreement signed between Germany and the Church and condemned antisemitism.

She entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery St. Maria vom Frieden (Our Lady of Peace) at Cologne in 1933 and took the name Teresia Benedicta a cruce (Teresia Benedicta of the Cross). There she wrote her metaphysical book "Endliches und ewiges Sein," which tries to combine the philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl.

To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her order transferred Sr. Teresia Benedicta to the Carmelite monastery at Echt in the Netherlands. There she wrote Studie über Joannes a Cruce: Kreuzeswissenschaft ("The Science of the Cross: Studies on John of the Cross"). Her Testament of June 6, 1939, states "I beg the Lord to take my life and my death … for all concerns of the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary and the holy church, especially for the preservation of our holy order, in particular the Carmelite monasteries of Cologne and Echt, as atonement for the unbelief of the Jewish People and that the Lord will be received by his own people and his kingdom shall come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world, at last for my loved ones, living or dead, and for all God gave to me: that none of them shall go astray."

However, Sr. Teresia Benedicta was not safe in the Netherlands—the Dutch Bishops' Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the country on July 20, 1942, condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on July 26, 1942, the Reichskomissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts, who had previously been spared. Stein and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were gassed on August 9, 1942 when Edith was 51.[5]


Plum Edith Stein und Maximilian Kolbe

Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe, stained glass by Alois Plum in Kassel.

Teresia Benedicta of the Cross was beatified as a martyr on May 1, 1987, in Cologne, Germany, by Pope John Paul II, and canonized by him on October 11, 1998. The miracle which was the basis for her canonization was the cure of Teresa Benedicta McCarthy, a little girl who had swallowed a large amount of paracetamol which causes hepatic necrosis in small children. Her father, Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, a Melkite Catholic, immediately rounded up relatives and prayed for Edith Stein's intercession.[6] Shortly thereafter the nurses in the intensive care unit saw her sit up completely healthy. Dr. Ronald Kleinman, a pediatric specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who treated Teresa Benedicta, testified about her recovery to Church tribunals, stating "I was willing to say that it was miraculous."[6] Teresa Benedicta would later attend Sr. Teresia Benedicta's canonization ceremony in the Vatican.

Today, there are many schools named in tribute to Edith Stein, for example in Darmstadt, Germany,[7] Hengelo, the Netherlands,[8] and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.[9] Also named for her are a women's dormitory at the University of Tübingen[10] and a classroom building at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre published a book in 2006 entitled, Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-1922, in which he contrasted Stein's living out of her own personal philosophy with Martin Heidegger, whose actions during the Nazi era according to MacIntyre suggested a "bifurcation of personality."[11]

In 2009, her bust was introduced to the Walhalla temple near Regensburg.


The jewish Anti-Defamation League challenges the beatification of Edith Stein as a martyr. They say Stein was killed for her Jewish ethnicity rather than for her faith, and that the appropriation/Christianization of an event that targeted Jews diminishes the Jewish and Christian experience and controverts the lessons to be taken from it. The position of the Catholic Church hierarchy is that Edith Stein also died because of the Dutch hierarchy's public condemnation of Nazi racism in 1942—in other words, that she died to uphold the moral position of the Church, and is thus a true martyr.[12] [13]


Praha edith stein

Memorial to Edith Stein in Prague

  • Life in a Jewish Family: Her Unfinished Autobiographical Account, translated by Josephine Koeppel, 1986
  • On the Problem of Empathy, Translated by Waltraut Stein 1989
  • Essays on Woman, translated by Freda Mary Oben, 1996
  • The Hidden Life, translated by Josephine Koeppel, 1993
  • The Science of the Cross, translated by Josephine Koeppel, 1998
  • Knowledge and Faith
  • Finite and Eternal Being: An Attempt to an Ascent to the Meaning of Being
  • Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, translated by Mary Catharine Baseheart and Marianne Sawicki, 2000
  • An Investigation Concerning the State, translated by Marianne Sawicki, 2006
  • Martin Heidegger's Existential Philosophy, translated by Mette Lebech, 2007
  • Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942
  • The Hidden Life


  1. "Patron Saints Index: Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross" Accessed 26 January 2007.
  3. As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews. But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.

    Everything that happened and continues to happen on a daily basis originates with a government that calls itself "Christian." For weeks not only Jews but also thousands of faithful Catholics in Germany, and, I believe, all over the world, have been waiting and hoping for the Church of Christ to raise its voice to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name." —Edith Stein, Letter to Pope Pius XI.

  4. "This Europe: Letters reveal Auschwitz victim's plea to Pope Pius XI". The Independent. Retrieved 2003-02-21. 
  5. "Edith Stein". Internationaal College Edith Stein. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Jewish-born nun gassed by Nazis is declared saint; Prayer to Edith Stein sparked tot's 'miraculous' recovery". The Toronto Star: pp. A22. May 24, 1997. 
  7. Edith-Stein-Schule
  8. Hogeschool Edith Stein
  9. St. Edith Stein Elementary School
  10. Edith-Stein-Studentinnen-Wohnheim
  11. [1] Alasdair MacIntyre, Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-1922, Rowman and Littlefield, 2006, pg. 5
  12. Canonization Homily
  13. Biography on the Vatican's website

Intellectual and Spiritual Contemporaries of Note

See also

External links


Edith Stein Sculpture in Cologne, Germany

ca:Edith Stein

cs:Terezie Benedikta od Křížeeo:Edith Stein eu:Edith Steinhr:Sveta Edith Stein id:Edith Steinjv:Edith Stein sw:Edith Stein la:Editha Stein lt:Edita Štein li:Edith Stein hu:Edith Steinja:エーディト・シュタイン no:Edith Steinpt:Edith Stein ru:Штайн, Эдит sk:Edith Steinová fi:Edith Stein sv:Edith Stein tr:Edith Stein uk:Едіт Штайн

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